This is the first in a series of posts about hair and how it plays into our concepts of beauty/physical attractiveness, gender, and culture. I’m currently seeking writers and bloggers who wish to contribute to the series by writing a guest post. Contact me if you are interested.
Embracing the gray: Why I stopped coloring my hair
I started experimenting with hair color as a teenager. It was the ‘80s, and punk style was everywhere. I wanted hair like Cyndi Lauper, but in my small town, the closest I could get was to buy a bottle of Sun-in, a spray-in hair lightener. I sprayed it all over my head and sat in the sun until my dark brown hair turned a brassy shade of red. It probably looked like hell but I felt like a super star.
Since my teens I’ve worn my hair nearly every color imaginable: blonde, various shades of red, even jet-black. Coloring my hair was partly for fun and adventure, but I think a deeper reason was that I didn’t feel like my “real” hair was good enough.
Hmm, I wonder where I got that idea.
Watch any commercial for hair color and you’ll see the “ideal” hair portrayed as long, straight, and usually blonde. We’re promised easy ways to “enhance” our hair color, and cover those “unsightly” and “stubborn” grays. And have you ever seen a makeover show that didn’t involve hair color?
It’s estimated that between 65 and 75 percent of women in the U.S. dye their hair.
Those statistics no longer include me. Last year, I decided I’d had enough. Enough of the expense, the upkeep, and enough of applying god-knows-what chemicals to my hair and scalp.
I admit it hasn’t been easy, especially once I realized that my hair has more gray than I expected, and much more gray than my husband has, even though he is five years my senior.
It’s difficult to shake off decades of cultural conditioning that taught me gray=old and that old=unattractive. I’m working through it, though, and I’m learning to like the look of my real hair.
With a few more haircuts I should be rid of all of the old color. I’ll post a new picture when that day comes.
How have cultural norms and expectations about hair affected you? Has your self-esteem suffered because your hair doesn’t fit the beautiful hair “ideal?” Start a discussion by commenting on this post.
Photo: House of Sims